Thursday, June 02, 2011

Is God a Monster?

This week we have seen the arrest of General Ratko Mladic, otherwise known as the ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ who has been held responsible for masterminding the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were put to death. They invented the word ‘ethnic cleansing’ to describe the things he did – a systematic attempt to exterminate another race in an attempt to cleanse a piece of disputed land from their presence. To make it even worse, there are images of Mladic being blessed by the priests of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Was this not only a genocide but one for which religious motivations were found? Was this terrible crime carried out in the name of Jesus Christ? In the Balkans, religion soaks all the ethnic tensions and rivalries in high octane fuel. Churchmen and imams are not afraid to call on the name of God to whip up a murderous nationalistic fervour.

But lest we feel a bit smug hearing about this, they aren’t the only ones to use God to justify clearing out land. The conquest and destruction of the peoples who inhabited the land on which we stand today was often justified as a Christianisation of pagan space.

The idea of a Holy War is one that mostly appals us. We can see how terrible and how bloody its consequences can be. But what if the Bible itself were to contain episodes of genocide and ethnic cleansing and to claim that God himself had commanded it? What if the Old Testament was shot through with stories of God-ordained violence? Wouldn’t we be justified in thinking that the Bible was a barbaric book and its God a monster?

Certainly, this is what leading atheist Richard Dawkins thinks he has discovered in the pages of the Bible. In his best selling book The God Delusion he writes:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak, a vindictive, blood-thirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniac, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Hasn’t Dawkins got a point? Isn’t the God of Israel involved in promoting the kind of barbaric act o read more, click here.that would lead him to share the dock at the Hague with Ratko Mladic?

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